2316 – 2333 Stone Hut

Left Geraldine fully powered by the influence of two pies and a coffee. Actually the pies weren’t that good although the ‘world famous’ venison pie was slightly better than the steak and mushroom.

I should have got the ‘world’s largest burger’ last night but I chickened out. Not even I can justify eating a 2kg pattie for $55 although there was a rumour this morning that if you eat it in under 1/2 an hour you get your money back. But I digress.

Wayne (our driver) is a great guy from Geraldine farming stock so I was forced to bring into play my vast farming knowledge gleaned from Johnny and Christina and various other conversations. Things like this.

“I’ve just got 20 Jersey bulls brought in”

“Core, they’re vicious bastards aren’t they?”

“Yeah. I have to keep them in a different field otherwise they rape the Angus bulls.”

“Mind you, I hear they are worse if there is any blood around”

“Yeah. Bloody terrible then.”

“Of course, birthing blood is OK”

“That’s true. Hey, would you like to see some Tar?”

And so on. After about an hour we got to the trail head and started up Bush Stream, over Crooked Spur and carried on to Stone Hut. Hopefully the weather holds out as tomorrow we go over the highest point of the T.A. at Stag Saddle.

2307 – 2315 Geraldine

Today was a short day. The wind didn’t blow in the night which was a relief because it meant I had a fantastic sleep. It was probably 8:00am by the time I crawled out of my sleeping bag.

The great thing about today was that we got to go to Edoras from the Lord of the Rings. Otherwise known as Mt Sunday.

It was spectacular. You could look across the river plains and up into the mountains where thick snow glistened blue white.

We were going to  stay the night on the mountain but because it became rather windy and also because we had to get around the Rangitata we decided to hitch out to Geraldine.

This proved to be comparatively simple. One car, 60m walking, Geraldine. Insanely lucky.

We also got some advice for getting to the trail head by calling Wayne who would take us up for $150 and then ran into some other T.A. people who would share so the whole ride only cost us $40 each.

Geraldine is nice. I would have liked to stay longer. Plus the backpackers has a guitar. Always a bonus.

2277 – 2307 Lake Clearwater

Breakfast at Double Hut was incredible if only for the view. I sat on the grass surrounded by rabbit shit with a cup of tea and a re-hydrated meal and soaked it in.

Angelynn has decided she is going to leave us as she wants to complete the journey before her flight. It appears the slackpacker life can no longer be hers.

Still, we all started off together and walked to where Hakatere Road diverged from the track, gave her a hug, and then watched her dwindle into the distance…..OK, that part is purely metaphorical. We did turn around after a 100m or so but she had already disappeared. Maybe a testament to her awesome hitching powers, possibly because she is so fast, but more probably because there was a bloody hill in the way by then. We waved anyway.

After that it was pretty much walking over a baking hot plain, through a valley, a saddle with a dead lake, and then down towards Lake Clearwater.

It’s a little bit windy up here at the moment. The forecast is saying about 150km wind gusts but we haven’t seen anything near that yet. Hopefully we won’t as my present camping position is so exposed that it is in danger of getting me arrested. A couple of large rocks have been placed on strategic pegs to give me hope.

2255 – 2277 Double Hut

Last night was amazing. At some point during the night the A-frame began to shudder as double strength gusts of wind ripped down the valley.

On waking I discovered my shoes had been blown away. The first was easily found but the second escaped me until Silvin discovered it near the hut.

That was just the beginning of an interesting day.

About 5km down the track Angelynn appeared with one of my shoes which I had apparently failed to attach to my pack properly. I walked almost all the way back to the hut before I found the other one.

This meant that I only caught up with Angelynn and Silvan at the next hut and we began a long journey up the Round Hill Creek to the saddle.

The trail wasn’t the easiest. Occasionally wind would come down the valley that was so strong it whipped water off the top of the river and sprayed all in its path. I swear at one point I was pelted by small pebbles borne on the wind.

Also, my shoe laces decided they would constantly undo and, worse, I lost the top of a walking pole in the river (Angelynn had new ones and said I could have her old ones to see if I liked them).

Oh, and I forgot to charge my phone so no photos today either. This was especially a pain in the arse as the mountains were giant grey shingle peaks with tussock lands beneath them.

The final ignominy came upon reaching the hut when I discovered the Kindle had a cracked screen. Just not my day I suppose.

2245 – 2255 A-Frame Hut

Another easy day. The morning partly consisted of driving to the trail head on the other side of the Rangitata (it being uncrossable) via Methven to get them some supplies.

The start of our day was a mild shock for a number of reasons.

Silvan and I have way to much food. We had carefully planned eating Backcountry food every day so all the days we haven’t are still in our packs when we hit the next pickup.

Angelynn has got new poles and convinced me to try her old ones out on the way to Twizel. A strange experience.

The trail immediately went up and it was incredibly hot.

On top of this A-Frame Hut is beautiful. Right beside a stream, fantastic views, and incredible weather have all added up to a general abandonment of walking for the day. Better luck tomorrow.

2216 – 2245 Lake Coleridge Lodge 

Probably one of the easiest days ever had. Due to us being early, the plan was to go to Lake Coleridge Lodge and see whether they had and beds and if not then go to Methven. And because of the large distance to Methven we decided hitching was a good idea if we didn’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere for the night. It was one of those days you expect to be walking forever.

What wasn’t expected was getting a ride all the way to the lodge within twenty minutes and then finding that yes they had a room. At this point it was probably around 9:00AM.

Lake Coleridge Village is a very strange place that makes me think it might be some sort of vampire colony from a Stephen King novel.

All the grounds are very neat and there is housing for perhaps 800 people except none of them seem occupied. The graveyard is almost 100 years old yet only 5 people are buried there. The lodge manager is tall and always wears running shoes. Very suspicious.

On the other side of things today I have had a sauna and then a spa whilst watching the sunset through the power lines from the Lake Coleridge Power Station.

Tomorrow we will be getting a shuttle around the Rakaia River to the trail head on the far side as the river is a non trail hazard zone, currently still high from the rain, and filled with great dust clouds from the wind.

2194 – 2216 Harper Village Camp

Last night was rather cold. I was almost tempted to get my thermals out but instead just ducked my head inside the sleeping bag.

The morning wasn’t much warmer although this didn’t deter the 100 or so sandflies on the outside of my tent.

On the bright side of things we were soon walking towards the light and the track had improved, eventually turning into a rough 4WD track that crisscrossed back and forth over the river.

Second breakfast was to be held at Mirror Tarn but it was a little disappointing and dark so we found a patch of sunlight by the river and had it there.

After that it was more river crossings with the valley slowly widening out and becoming more spectacular with grey scree covered mountains decending down into braided river bed and grasslands. And hot, very hot. But not enough to wish for rain.

The end of the day was at Harper Village Camp which, like a bad wine, will hopefully improve with age.

Fortunately the night improved due to the plotting of my fellow campers who, for reasons left unexplained, had carried wine, cheese, and crackers for the last two days in order to make me a happy person. Thank you.

2178 – 2194 West Harper Hut

For those of you who are taking note of the distances, you may have noticed the 28km leap from Morrisons Footbridge. This is due to the weather as per usual.

After going to the Otira Hotel the weather was still bad so we hitched to Arthur’s Pass to get our food box and stayed there for two days.

Today we had a plan to do the track in reverse as this would have been easier if the weather was going to improve but upon looking up the valley we turned our backs on it and walked on.

There was also a communication error. I’m not sure why I didn’t spend more time on it. I realised it was slightly flaky over the next hour or so. What it meant was Angelynn, who was going to meet up with us, was waiting at a different point to us and it was only due to the efforts of a roadworks guy that we crossed paths at all. Thank you roadworks guy.

The walk up to Lagoon Saddle was fairly spectacular with views over the Waimakariri Valley and all the way up to Arthur’s Pass. The mountains with fresh snow on them from the recent weather. At one point I just sat for twenty minutes and gazed.

After crossing the saddle Silvan and I carried on down the Harper River to West Harper Hut to set up camp while Angelynn climbed Mt Bruce.

We do have a slight problem with being to early now for our bookings at Lake Coleridge so we may have to take up exploring sidetracks in order to slow down.

2128 – 2150 Morrisons Footbridge

There were 10 people on Locke Hut last night so I slept outside by the Taramakau River which was a great nights sleep before heading to Morrisons Footbridge.

The first crossing of the Taramakau was impassable so we worked our way down gravel bars for a couple of hundred meters until we were able to cross.

After that it was pretty much the same the whole way down. There isn’t actually a path after the floods. It is possible there wasn’t really one before them. Either way it consisted of lots of walking over riverbed, in the river, across side rivers, and bush bashing round until a way was found.

It took considerably longer to reach the Otira River than we had expected and we had come up with a plan to go to the Otira Hotel for a ‘weather update’. It should be pointed out that this was Silvan idea and it was a good one.

For starters, the Otira Hotel has become a wonderland of antique items and knick knacks and feels a quite a lot like stepping back in time. In fact, occasionally you wonder whether you have entered some alternate dimension.

The second reason it was a great idea was that the weather went downhill again with 110mm of rain forecast overnight destroying any chance of us being able to do the next section up the Deception River the next day.

2104 – 2128 Locke Hut

The weather had improved immeasurably by the time we arose with the clouds moving in a different direction and no rain and headed for Locke Hut.

The first 9km to Hurunui No.3 Hut (I still haven’t found No.2) were easy and uneventful except for a short stop at some hot springs where Silvan and Angelynn had a soak. They were kind of a surprise to me because, unlike volcanic hot springs, they didn’t smell overwhelmingly of sulphur.

After Hurunui No.3 we headed up to Camerons Hut and started to get an impression of the vast amount of water that had travelled down the valley last week. Slips, fallen trees, and signs of serious flooding are everywhere. By the time we reached Harper Pass Bivvy large portions of the track had been either swept away or fallen off.

Once over the pass the track looked like a scoured riverbed due to the water and occasionally just ended abruptly where the river had swept away a small bluff.

Locke Hut is fairly untouched though which is good as I am sleeping in my beloved tent as there are 10 people here.